Let me preface this post by saying that my main area of expertise lies in SEO. Every single day is a constant struggle to get high quality backlinks that I hope will help me eventually outrank my competitors. My competitors compared to me are the goliaths; they have large teams, offices & budgets whereas I work by myself in my own small office so competiting with these guys is a constant struggle.
So as I talked about in my last post, I’m now working on a startup called movienite. The premise is simple: as a child I used to sit around the television surrounded by family watching a classic & enjoying junk food. This doesn’t seem to happen anymore here in Australia so it’s movienite’s mission to bring this back whilst recreating a sort of movie cinema experience. On a monthly basis users will receive a movienite pack which contains a movie (personalized through fun questionaires), a sharebox of popcorn, fairy floss & assorted foreign candy all for less than the price of taking the family to the cinema.
Every few days I receive emails & tweets from people asking about projects that I’ve blogged about in the past so I thought I’d provide some updates on them. I don’t blog regularly anymore (have I ever?!) so if you don’t follow me on Twitter & you stumble across my articles you’d have no clue as to what’s going on.
2012 was the best year for me financially. I had multiple sites ranking extremely high for very competitive keywords and the payouts were big. 2013 so far hasn’t been anywhere near what last year produced mainly because of my gambling habits (which now cease to exist). Nevertheless, I want to take a look back at August 2012 which financially was the best month I’ve ever had & only involved sales from 1 website.
Ask me a year ago what my hobbies were and I’d include gambling as one of them. It was the act of doing something I loved: watching sports, combined with the thing I love most in this world: making money. It’s strange how we can become blindsided by an activity that in the long run can only end up badly. Short term is great, you have a good day with friends, you back a few winners and your day ends up costing you nothing due to the profit you made. As with anything that is a numbers game though, the stats don’t lie and the house always win.
We may not remember them, but we’ve all seen them. The average web users sees thousands of advertisements on a daily basis, from helpful search ads that deliver useful services to obnoxious display banners plastered across some of the world’s most popular websites.
While we may not like advertising, it exists for a reason: to keep the web (for the most part) free of charge for users, and give webmasters a source of income. The banner ads you see every day generate, in some cases, thousands of dollars for the website owners that are serving them up.
About 3 weeks ago, Callum Chapman & I put our landing page live for our new startup, Cappture. We wanted a big launch with huge traffic numbers & a bit of buzz so we decided to invest in advertising on large Twitter accounts using the BuySellAds platform. If you’re unfamiliar with BSA, they essentially make buying and selling ads on websites extremely easy and they’ve also branched out to sell tweets on users Twitter accounts.
So I set myself a $1,000 limit, went browsing and settled on something called the “Design @tweet bundle”. So with this bundle you get to send out your message on 12 design related different Twitter accounts with the amount of followers receiving your message being around 1,590,000 people. We went ahead and bought the bundle, removing 2 of the accounts which I thought were overpriced and adding a Twitter account with an iOS theme. In the end it cost $1,248 and the estimated amount of people who would see it was 1.8m. This puts the CPM at around $0.69 which I thought was reasonable.
3 months ago I wrote a blog post titled So I’ve Invested In An iPhone App which was picked up on Hacker News where I asked for advice on an issue that was affecting the company. Essentially what happened was that I had invested in an iPhone application where 2 of the co-founders were being head-hunted by Apple, Google & Facebook. I received some great advice from members of the Hacker News community however unfortunately 2 members of the team have now departed and we’re down to 2 people (myself and 1 of the original founders).
While this did initially set us back and have the companies fate in limbo, we’re now moving forward faster than ever with a lot of the applications design completed and a landing page already up (see: www.capptureapp.com). When I originally invested in the company my role was fairly simple and could be compared to as a silent partner: I would provide capital and advice if needed. Since the departure though, I’ve taken on a bigger role and while it does eat up a lot of time, I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going. Granted we’re without the original developer & a designer, it’s not something that will stop the progress of the app.
There are over 500,000 iPhone apps in circulation right now with hundreds, if not thousands added every day. Trying to stand out amongst the crowd has proven to be a nightmare for a ton of hopeful entrepreneurs who’ve sunk their time and money into creating an app they think people want only to see it slaughtered in the App Store. Meanwhile achieving success in the mobile space I can imagine would be an incredibly stressful and eventful feat that very few have encountered. So naturally this is where I’m heading.
A few months ago I decided to invest in an idea; an application that has yet to be built. I was lucky enough to secure 20% equity in the company which overtime will hopefully pay off. While I won’t go into detail about what the app does or how much I invested, I can say it’s in the photography related area and I can see it being big. Over time I’ll be writing more about the app and its progress and documenting the app’s success or failure – hopefully the former. I’m confident in the team who will remain nameless for the moment which includes 2 talented designers and a top notch developer.
There’s been a great deal of commentary lately on the technology industry, and whether its biggest players and hottest companies – Facebook, Zynga, and Groupon – are overvalued. It’s a fairly easy topic to look at, given the mediocre revenues produced by most of today’s tech giants and their low levels of potential growth.
But despite the appeal of this bubble, whether it’s true or not, dangerous or exaggerated, is a fact that most of today’s top reporters are ignoring – there’s a much bigger bubble going on, and it’s a far bigger one than the technology industry is experiencing.
Good question. It’s been a while since I last posted here and I regret letting this blog take the back seat. As you can imagine it gets hard to find time to write when Dan is off at Uni and I’ve only recently launched my new venture. It’s not as if I haven’t got anything to write about, it’s trying to find the time to put pen to paper. What is strange however is that while traffic is down, it’s steady. I think it’s a combination of our search engine rakings for long-tail keywords and referrals that’s been keeping us afloat. A Google PageRank update which put Sofa Moolah up to PR3 would have helped also.
So anyway, I’ve got a few really cool ideas about upcoming posts. Majority are case studies on making money online however their is one which takes things offline. I know, this blog was setup as a make money online site, but fuck it, if you can make money offline using the Internet as a hub then do it. The idea arose after I got sick of seeing threads on forums where people are asking for help to make $1.00 a day through AdSense and then seeing this thread on Hacker News. Put two and two together and you can work out what I’ll be doing as a case study for this blog.
I can definitely file this experience under amateur move. In an act of desperation I decided to try the cost-per-click platform Bidvertiser. Essentially you setup a text or banner ad and your message is shown to a selection of Bidvertiser’s network of publishers and you’re charged on a per click basis. I decided to give it a go to advertise my new website to try and drive some sales. This turned out to be a massive waste of time and money.
I want you to do a quick Google search right now for “Bidvertiser”. What I see on my local Google is 4 results saying the service is a scam. Not wanting to rely on a few individuals’ results I signed up and took a look around. What I like to do, and what others might, is look for new traffic sources. While Bidvertiser has been around for a while I hadn’t heard of many people making bank off of it – probably a good reason why. The only thing that drew me in and the reason why I didn’t go straight to Adwords was the ability to fund your account through PayPal. I had a few dollars in my account and figured what the hell.
You’re business plan has just been written, you’ve gone through your launch checklist and you’re almost ready to go live. There is 1 problem though: you haven’t thought of a name for your website. I personally think that choosing a domain name is one of, if not the most difficult parts of starting a new website. Dan and I had this exact same problem last year when we were thinking of a name for this blog. We obviously landed on Sofa Moolah, but how did we get there? What do you do when all of your favourite names are taken by existing businesses? Let me give you some tips. Quick note, I apologise for the terrible formatting in this post.
We started thinking of names back in September 2010 and we didn’t really get off to a good start. I actually have the chat history of the exact day we started thinking of names and landing on Sofa Moolah. To avoid quoting the chat, I’m going to post the full, raw, unedited version of the chat below. This could be embarrassing but you’ll get the idea:
Entrepreneurs stop right now and think to yourself: are you comfortable? If you’re not, good job. I believe that if things around you are getting harder to accomplish, then you’re moving up and making progress. This post is all about moving out of your comfort zone to achieve your potential in both life and business. As someone who is self-employed, it’s extremely easy to become unmotivated and content with your business. What’s even easier is not moving out of your comfort zone. This has personally happened to me in the past, and I guarantee it will never happen again.
I’m taking you back to my first business, ZOR. If you haven’t read about ZOR in the past, check out these two links. I mention in those articles that I was invited into the Sydney CBD for a photo shoot and video interview for one of the most popular news websites in Australia, News.com.au. What I didn’t mention was that it almost didn’t happen. If there is one thing I hate it’s talking on the telephone. To gain some insight, they (the reporters) wanted to have an hour long chat on the phone talking about myself and my business – something I did not want to do. It may not seem difficult, but ask around and you’ll see that not many people enjoy talking on the phone; especially to reporters you’ve never met. This is where I needed to come out of my comfort zone and do something as simple as take a business related phone call.
Last Friday night, after 3 months of planning I launched my next online business venture. I don’t want this to sound like an advertisement so I’ll only mention the name once: it’s called GetWithSocial and I describe it as “a marketing company that ‘social media experts’ don’t want you to see”. The idea of the website is to sell social marketing services such as Digg votes, Facebook likes etc. Disregarding your view on these sorts of services I’m here to talk about how it is going, any revenue it’s generated, how I got customers – basically behind the scenes sort of stuff.
I launched the website at around midnight Sydney time on the 5th of this month which was a Friday night. I think it was a bad mistake to launch on the weekend, if you spend a lot of time on the web it seems as though weekends are dead online. Have you ever been on Twitter on Sunday? It’s like a Blockbuster parking lot. It should have gone live first thing Monday morning, ready for when people got into work. We ended up sending out an email to our subscribers that night as well and Dan granted me permission to put a bit about the new site at the end of the email.
52 of you came to the website through the email. Of course I would have liked all of our subscribers who opened the email to visit, but never-the-less it was a decent percentage. Aside from an email, a few tweets from my own account and a small advertisement on the Sitepoint Market, we’ve done literally zero paid advertising. With that said, our traffic is obviously pretty low. For the past 7 days we’ve had 308 visitors which resulted in 726 pageviews. I’m actually quite happy with that number. From those 308 visitors, 53% came directly to the site, 44% through referring sites and 2% through the search engines. What’s surprising is that my $39.00 paid advertisement on Sitepoint Market only resulted in 19 visitors which equal a cost per click of $2.05 which is pretty high considering majority of the keywords I’ll be targeting in an Adwords campaign hover around the $0.70-$1.10 mark.
I think most of you will be looking forward to the sales numbers the most. Alright, so in the first 7 days we’ve done $765.00 in revenue. I’m not going to divulge net profit – sorry! I had pretty high expectations for first week sales figure and unfortunately it didn’t hit them. What I am proud of is the fact that we only spent $39.00 in advertising – although it didn’t really work. What did work are forums. Our top referrers include: 6 webmaster forums, Facebook, Twitter, Sitepoint Market and a few classified sites. Plan on launching something similar? Head to forums!
I’ve written this short post to show you that you can basically make money online through anything. To start, let me take you back to 2005, yep, a whole six years ago. I had just turned 13, was still in school and was addicted to an online game called Habbo (formerly Habbo Hotel). Habbo describes itself as a social networking site aimed at teenagers but I’d call it a gateway drug to addiction and gambling. In short, you create avatars and are put in a virtual Hotel where you can interact with other users, buy furniture for your room with in-game credits and essentially waste time in a virtual world. Read more at their Wikipedia page.
So I started playing in 2005, less than a year after it launched here in Australia. Pretty soon it took up a lot of my time; I would play after school for several hours and would spend the weekends either at home playing or at my mate’s house playing. The addiction came from the trading and betting aspect of the game. It didn’t take me long to amass a small fortune of in-game items. My goal for the game (which sort of reflects my real life goals) was to increase the wealth of my avatar through trading furniture and gambling through the in-game “casinos”. This goal was shared among many of the users which ended up with a sort of underground marketplace. People would buy and sell in-game items meanwhile avoiding mentioning this in the game as it would result in suspension of your account.
As someone who was interested in making money online in my mid-teens, after researching into the many various ways of generating cash, I stumbled upon affiliate marketing. All the joys of making money off of traffic sources you discover while you don’t have to deal with customers seemed perfect.
One of the first things I did that I’m sure everyone else new to a job does, was to look for established names in the business that were dishing out advice. It didn’t take me long to stumble across people like Shoemoney, Jonathan Volk, John Chow and various other affiliate marketing bloggers. Now, when you’re in to something like marketing, there is no bigger motivator than cash. Seeing these guys holding cheques for tens of thousands of dollars after only a few years in the business is all the drive you need to start working on that first campaign.
When you’re running an online campaign and throwing thousands of dollars’ worth of traffic to the website in a single day it’s important you don’t experience any downtime. A few minutes of downtime can be the difference between making a profit or loss for the day and can have devastating effects on your business. With that said, here are my thoughts on web hosts to use and to avoid for different scenarios.
I’ve only had 3 years of experience with web hosting but in those 3 years I’ve been a customer to a hell of a lot of web hosting companies. From companies who offer “unlimited bandwidth” for ridiculously cheap prices to hosts that charge hundreds of dollars for dedicated servers I’ve seen them all. Even after 3 years, I still have trouble finding a decent host. Just today I’ve had 2 separate hosting issues. The first involving Sofa Moolah’s hosting account being suspended and the 2nd being a server side error that the host is refusing to fix. I’ll get into more detail about these further down.
Let me grab your attention straight up: since the beginning of this year I’ve lost a grand total of $15,465.73 on online gambling. Wow, working out the exact number seems so surreal. What’s even worse is that this is just on Betfair alone and doesn’t take into account the offline gambling I’ve done when I’ve been out with friends. These events happened mainly from March to April and since April I haven’t touched any sort of gambling. Here’s my brief story of how making money online lost me to gambling.
Making money online has its privileges. For one, I don’t have to spend several hours every day in peak hour traffic waiting to get to work. I can also work whatever hours I want which gives me freedom to do shit I want to do, whenever the hell I feel like it. To me, the best advantage is that I don’t know how much I’ll earn by the end of the year and I honestly don’t think I could cope knowing what my exact salary for the entire year will be. “Oh, I can’t go on vacation until… 2014 when I finally put away enough money to book a hotel”. Not for me. Besides these extremely lucrative advantages, I don’t think enough people talk about the negatives. Besides the stress involved, lack of social interaction etc. etc. I’ve come across online gambling as my biggest hurdle so far.
3 days ago Sofa Moolah turned 1 month old – strange as I also received an email from my domain registrar that the domain I purchased 1 year ago expires in a month. So in terms of website launches, it’s one of the worst traffic wise I’ve been involved in. Compared to my last blog which received close to 200,000 visitors in a few days, Sofa Moolah has underperformed. In the month it’s been live, Sofa Moolah has received 30,000 page views and 18,000 unique visitors. This isn’t all bad though, we had a few glimmers of hope. Let me explain.
Our bounce rate was extremely low and our time on site was extremely high. For anyone that doesn’t know what the bounce rate shows, it’s basically a percentage that shows how many of your site visitors come and look around opposed to people who arrive, read a single page and leave. Sofa Moolah’s bounce rate for the first month was 28%. This means that 72% of you guys are checking out the rest of the site. This might come down to the fact the website is new so people are curious so I’ll keep an eye on it to make sure it stays down.
Let me take you back to the beginning of 2010, a time when Digg.com was one of the most popular websites in the world averaging close to 40 million unique visitors every month. This small story happened a few months before “New Digg” was introduced, power users become somewhat obsolete and traffic to Digg dropped by 35% in a single month. Before the ultimate collapse of Digg I was able to successfully network with power users to promote a new blog I had started with a friend of mine. The blog was called AddToDesign and it attracted over 150,000 visitors to the site within 4 days.
Something every blog owner talks about when they’re first starting out is how they are going to get traffic. One of the worst things for a blog owner to experience is an unsuccessful launch for their website – it demotivates bloggers and can make you question whether or not you should continue. This is a problem I identified before launching AddToDesign and I needed to find a way to get off to a good start. I had been a semi-active Digg user for a while and the idea of seeing my blog on the front page of a major website would be the perfect start I was looking for. But how could this idea become a reality?
I really have to apologize for leaving you guys hanging on the first part of this story. I was undecided on whether or not to break the article up into 2’s and after some feedback on Twitter I decided to. Below are the middle and the ending. Again, I was undecided on whether or not to break this part up but I left it whole. There are 23 paragraphs, double the original. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, this is the 2nd part on a story I posted yesterday. You can view the original here. By the way, this is the first time I’ve ever told this full story.
Let me clarify that because the tracking information said the order came on a Thursday I had to take the day off from school. My mum left for work at 6:00am and I’d usually get a lift to and from school with my mate so my sisters didn’t know I was taking the day off. That afternoon, the first home were my sisters. They got in and were confused as to why I had a room full of MP3 players. Being a cool brother (ha!) I gave them both an MP3 player for free. My mum got home at 5:00pm and I was hesitant to tell her I gambled away my savings. I showed her my order and the look on her face was one of shock, excitement and nervousness. I reassured her that I’d be fine and hopefully they’d be packed and posted to customers within a month or two. Turns out my estimations were wrong.
I originally planned on making this topic into an eBook and have it released alongside “How I Launched, Marketed and Promoted A High-Traffic Blog in Under 15 Days” but I’ve decided against it. I wrote this (very personal) article to document the rapid rise and ultimate collapse of my very first business which I launched in 2008 at age 16 and to tell you what I learnt from this experience. I’ve tried to be as transparent as possible with regards to financial information and other experiences along the way.
The business was called ZOR Technology. In this early recount of my business life I go into detail of how I created an online business that was importing crates of consumer electronics from China, had revenues of high 4 figures per month, made me a power seller on eBay, generated national media attention and put me in one of those ridiculous “top 10 young entrepreneurs in Australia” list. I also talk about the fall of ZOR which involved the intention to sue from one of the biggest companies in the world (read the first ever post on Sofa Moolah for more information about this) and a lifelong suspension from eBay.
As a freelancer, when I started out one of the most baffling aspects of the job to me was setting an hourly rate. I hadn’t really given it much thought, I just knew I wanted to develop websites and that I needed clients. When I got my first design gig and I got an introductory email asking me to reply with a few details and my ‘hourly rate’ it struck me that I had no idea what to charge.
It can be one of the most odd situations to jump in to, especially if, like me, you came in to this from a pretty bog standard job where your pay cheque came in at the end of the month at its usual rate. It can be easy to set your rates too high for your experience, but even more so it’s possible to undervalue your own work and take a rate far lower than you should be.
There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the true value of a Facebook fan. Some, particularly those in the direct response world, have said that having a lot of fans on Facebook isn’t necessarily going to translate into revenue. Others, primarily those in social media, have claimed that the real value of a Facebook fan varies from business to business, with some proving quite profitable.
It’s not my place to comment on the real value of a Facebook fan. They do vary from one industry to another, and it’s definitely a field that benefits some businesses more than others. Local brands, for example, tend to do very well on Facebook, whereas high-value services and expensive niche products rarely appeal to the wide audience that Facebook is capable of generating.
Wow, it should not have taken this long. It’s been almost 7 months since our first landing page went live and in excess of a year since the idea was conceived. Many things have held us back but we’re here now and it’s time to begin.
Our idea for Sofa Moolah is simple: we want to document our journey of making money online while also showcasing interviews with other successful entrepreneurs, display case studies that work and also give out material that our users will find helpful.
Time for introductions. This could get confusing as I’m trying to write for both of us, and you the reader have no idea who’s writing this. To simplify things, we’ve both written a short bio below. We’ve tried to avoid cliches such as writing in third person. Here we go.